Most Versatile of all – African Hair
by Timea Koppandi
Nikiwe Dlova is a creative hair artist and stylist from Johannesburg, South Africa, whose works will truly amaze you. Her vision of hair and the hairstyles that she creates are incredibly intricate, colourful and ever-changing in shape and form. In this interview she shares her experience in the hair industry, as well as her perception of hair and culture. You can find more of her work at @ownurcrown.
TK: Could you tell me a bit more about yourself, your journey and experience in the hair and the beauty industry?
ND: My journey in the hair industry started in 2018, when I decided to expand my blog ownURcrown to a brand that offers hairstyling, headpieces and hair art exhibitions services. I noticed that there was a gap in representation when it came to alternative, creative African hairstyles.
TK: What does hair mean to you?
ND: Hair means identity, expression and individuality. Hair can also be political by rebelling against conformity and going against what is ‘normal’.
TK: You play around a lot with shape, colour and textures. Where do you take inspiration from and what materials do you prefer to use?
ND: I take inspiration from my Xhosa culture, other African cultures, my environment and fashion. I prefer using (but not limited to) wool, beads, cotton thread and hair extensions.
TK: Beauty standards differ from country to country. Could you describe the beauty standards around hair (if there are any) and your thoughts on them?
ND: I don’t like beauty standards because you cannot limit people’s expressions or identity especially in corporate and schools. Children should be allowed to express themselves and learn about their hair at a young age. Adults are also allowed to explore their individuality without being questioned. Hair gives us so much confidence and it’s part of our identity so when that freedom is taken away from us, we lose ourselves. I mentioned schools because you still get the code of conduct in 2020 that mentions natural hair being “untidy”, when you have dreadlocks they tell you how long they should be in centimetres, and in some corporate companies if you put hair colour it is not seen as professional.
TK: Hair is something so intimate for an individual, but it also became a form of resistance in the history of African people. Could you talk a bit more about the significance that hair and certain hairstyles have in your society?
ND: It became a form of resistance due to colonization and African people were reclaiming who they were and still do even now. African hair is so versatile and the world hasn’t accepted how versatile it is. Braiding, (African hair) threading, dreadlocks, natural hair are of huge significance in our culture, we use these hairstyles to stretch our hair, to express ourselves and to identify ourselves. As you mentioned hair is intimate so it cannot be dictated on how it should look. Hair is spiritual too which links back to intimacy.
TK: Do you have any tips for styling curly hair, or some tricks you would like to share?
ND: There’s different ways to take care of curly hair, it also depends on your genes, texture, diet etc. So my tip is for people to wash it, moisturise it, stretch it (if you want), trim your ends (if you want) and play with it by trying different, creative hairstyles but don’t make them too tight. I will give a general tip because different hair textures need different ways of taking care of it. It’s too personal for me to tell people what to do with their hair.
Image courtesy of Nikiwe Dlova.